2 December 2015

Cancer Bats - Searching For Zero



In these dark times of economic uncertainty and rich old cunts deciding to go to war because they wish to distract the serfs from how shit a job they're doing, it pays to have a welcoming presence. This presence is a Canadian band called Cancer Bats, whose music is a mixture of plenty sub-genres in the rock and metal universe but have been mostly described as hardcore punk and sludge metal. It's an awesome mix and provides plenty entertainment. So far, their best album is 2008's Hail Destroyer. Will this album top that? Let's find out in a mo...

Formed in May 2004 by vocalist Liam Cormier and guitarist Scott Middleton, they were looking to create a band that was a mixture of their influences. Soon, they were signed by a Candian record label called Distort Entertainment. Their career began in earnest, amid a few line-up changes, playing shows in the Southern Ontario area. I first read of these guys in a lad's mag known as Front (a bit like FHM and Loaded except they didn't censor the swear words) but I never gave them much thought. It was only after listening to their 2012 album Dead Set On Living that I became a fan. It was a decent album and I enjoyed it. This then lead to an interest in the band which has resulted in the blogging of this album Here we go, let's have a listen and forget our troubles. Namely rich old cunts who deserve to be hit with white phosphorus...

The first song is "Satellites" and is one of those feedback-noise intros which build up and turn into a song proper. The first thing to hit you is the lo-fi production. It's a bit more lo-fi than usual. A quick scan of the production credits reveals...holy Jesus, it's ROSS ROBINSON! He was the in-producer for a while, particularly for bands who were at the heavier end of the spectrum. Due to producing the likes of KoRn, Limp Bizkit, Manhole/Tura Satana (that shit band with Tarrie B) and Soulfly, he became associated with nu-metal, despite working with groups who were outside that umbrella, such as At The Drive-In (next big thing HA!), Amen and Fear Factory (he did the band's unreleased-until-2002-album Concrete). Anyhow...it's a decent song which is quite punky and a decent enough way to open the album. More discordant than bludgeoning, which makes a change.

"True Zero" follows the lo-fi mayhem that started the album and is another good one. A bit mid-paced and slower before picking it up in the verses. It's a good mix of speeds and it doesn't feel unnatural either.

The next song is a bit better and more instant though - "Arsenic In The Year Of The Snake". I like how CB have the occasional quirky song title. This is nicely heavy and sure to get a few heads banging at the live show.

"Beezlebub" then follows up with a slow, lazy rhythm and wah-infused guitar opening. Then we're into a slow, off-target rhythm with some dragged-out bridges and choruses. It's here where the sludge references come into play. Typical CB fare, really. It's well done, I suppose.

"Devil's Blood" picks the pace up and manages to get us rocking again! It's a quite short blast of punk which has refrains of WORLD ON FIRE!!! throughout. Quite apt, given the shit going down right now. White phosphorus, I guess. Back to drinking the devil's blood!

"Cursed With A Conscience" is one of those songs that opens up with a sinister and brooding bass-line that hints at great things. Mind, so did Radikult by Morbid Angel and look how that turned out..,the difference here is that this is a good song. Picks up before the end like it's racing to the finish.

"All Hail" is a fast, blast of some fine punk rock! Something which we're in dire need of at the minute. This should get a few pits going. Slows down towards an abrupt ending.

"Buds" is a bit weird, seems to have a boogie-rhythm thing going for it which is quite a contrast compared to the rest of this album. It's not too bad and adds a bit of a new flavour.

The next song is "Dusted" and I had to do a double-take as it starts with a slow bass and drums bit which is sounded like it was either tacked onto the last song or the start of this one. I can't decide! It's one of yet another slow sludgy songs by this band, but this one seems to have more atmospherics behind it. The vocals are quite low in the mix - until the screaming starts - and may have to FX on them, It's quite a good idea. So good, a few other bands have already done it. Mind, the rest of the song is ok.

"No More Bull Shit" - I'm sort of tempted to make a cheap pun based on either politics or this album. Actually, no. That last comment was a bit strong, but let's just say my verdict will not be a favorable one. More sludgy stuff. Ah well.

I was quite disappointed with this album, especially seeing as the last three were great. The main problems I hear are - the production. It's too lo-fi for this sort of thing. Not everyone likes a full-on ear-candy bells-and-whistles production job, but there is a fine line between that and lo-fi, the job on this one doesn't come anywhere near it. I guess what we have here is what the band were after but my opinion is that it wasn't right on this occasion. Ross Robinson has done some great things in the past and I've been reliably told that his recent stuff has been top-notch as well. Sadly, this was not it. Another problem is - the direction of the band. Whilst it is true that certain bands may only have one idea and use that one idea to consistently make great music over the years - albeit with the odd blip (AC/DC, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Napalm Death, Fear Factory), there are some bands who just cannot do this, they get at least two, maybe three, at a stretch four great albums before descending into mediocrity and should perhaps try something else. I'm afraid to say that Cancer Bats, for me, now fit that category. However, I am confident they'll get it together for the next one. But until then, I'm gonna stick with Hail Destroyer.

6 - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there.

Chris J,

Top Track: All Hail.

This album is on iTunes.

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